18 Feb 2011
- Written by Reginald Tate
Sen. Reginald Tate
The news Monday was the latest in a string of investments into Memphis, including previous major announcements by Electrolux and Pinnacle Airlines. They are all signs that Memphis and Shelby County are becoming more and more attractive to new and growing businesses. We need to keep the momentum going.
But we can’t do that without a strategic plan that requires the input and heavy lifting of business leaders as well as local and state officials. To lure Mitsubishi, we put together an enticing package of grants, construction commitments and a potential property tax freeze. They are all part of the investment that goes into major economic development pushes like this one.
That’s why, in the midst of our celebration, I am somewhat concerned when Gov. Bill Haslam repeatedly plays down job creation as part of this year’s legislative priorities. He tells reporters that Tennessee won’t create jobs through legislation, yet almost all major economic incentive packages require the approval or input of legislative bodies. We can’t simply expect to sit back and wait for private businesses to flock to Tennessee. Every state in the country is competing for opportunities like the one we earned with Mitsubishi. We won it because we were proactive, aggressive and strategic.
Job creation must be a major focus for both the governor and the legislature. Memphis and Shelby County’s unemployment rates sit at 9.4 percent, with thousands more barely making ends meet with part-time or low-paying jobs. I believe that government should help make people’s lives better, and that means giving people a chance at regaining the dignity and self-sufficiency that a well-paying job provides.
Our success with Mitsubishi should encourage us to work even harder to attract employers to Memphis, Shelby County and all of Tennessee. There’s no time to waste in putting people back to work after our deep recession. The people of Tennessee should expect their government to provide opportunities and services to help them get back on their feet. I hope we will show you that we can live up to those expectations.